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Astomatous > The Beauty of Reason > Reviews
Astomatous - The Beauty of Reason

A Tour of the Mute Deathly Hallows - 92%

bayern, October 14th, 2017

This formation will apparently fall into the “one-album-category” as they’re sadly no more. However, they did manage to give an almost finished feel to the technical/progressive death metal meanderings of the new millennium with this larger-than-life opera which is easily one of the finest achievements of the US death metal arena for the past 20 years.

The guys indulge, or rather indulged, in fairly complex soundscapes which place the listener in the centre of an ever-spinning vortex of riffs the madness stirred on “The Prophecy is Forgotten” enough to cause severe waves of dizziness, the guys juggling with weird, illogical time-signatures like masterful circus performers in a way no worse than Crimson Massacre and Deeds of Flesh. There’s some twisted, cavernous streak ala Morbid Angel running around as well, and with league with the short brutal blasting escapades it forms a most tantalizing, also quite challenging, musical tapestry that would require several listens, even by the hardened death metal connoisseurs. Add a few strokes of surreal atonality in the second half, and the picture almost becomes complete.

But there’s much more to come, and “Convergence” rushes to pummel the listener into oblivion with a compilation of more brutal dashes those quickly replaced by intricate, mazey arrangements which are accompanied by bouts of infectious melodies; another seamless symbiosis handsomely achieved although expect no idyllic co-existence due to the frequent more aggressive blast-beating outbursts and the more linear melo-death excursions, a captivating quiet violin-dominated epitaph closing this hyper-active drama. “The Ascetic Ponders” will make anyone else ponder over this proposition being nearly 10-min long, the band filling it up with time and tempo changes galore, some of them too hectic and chaotic to be savoured instantly, with the blast-beats flying around in a seemingly random fashion, the cacophony instilled easily reaching “None so Vile” heights, with more atonal surrealism served later, this particular gimmick taken straight from the Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega textbooks. “Astomatous” is much more controlled speed-wise, but this is a nicely unnatural accumulation of very twisted mid-paced rifforamas with spastic, quite unheralded as well, fast-paced interruptions, not to mention the staple atonal diversions and another stylish violin showing. “Absurd” is a great short technicaller, pure Suffocation and Psycroptic mania, a smattering display of overlapping musical mastery that will silence even the most fastidious experts out there. All the way to “Sands” which doesn’t break any established rules at this stage, but adds up to the inordinate riff density of this no-brainer with more puzzling configurations, more gorgeous melodies, and more brief blasting histrionics.

A sheer exhibition of talent and dexterity with a lot of music thrown at the listener within under 40-min. There’s nearly overwhelming urgency in the riff sequencies the band, intentionally or not, keeping the fans perplexed and bemused in equal dozes, being well aware of their abilities to pull this multi-layered music off although this isn’t stuff for the unprepared as the complexity will simply come as too much for some. Still, this is nothing short of outstanding, a great example of technical/progressive death metal done right with style to spare, again capturing all the nuances pertaining to the genre, including the diversifying ones that have already started circulating, giving the genre the psychedelic trippy vibe that became more prominent later.

The guys would have easily stuck out even on an oversaturated field like the US death metal one… well, the band members obviously had other plans about their musical careers, and they terminated this stint. They keep themselves quite busy with quite a few other acts under their belt, like the avant-garde death metallers Geryon, the technical black metal outfit Krallice, the black/thrash outfit Sallah, the sludge/doom beasts Bloody Panda, etc. This “mute” masterpiece may have been just an isolated experiment, after all; still, even as such its seismic grandiloquence will echo a long, long time after many of its contemporaries have been forgotten.

One Inspired Work of Art - 98%

angrypigfucker, March 24th, 2008

To my ears, Astomatous exemplifies a melding of great “traditional” metal bands like Morbid Angel, Death, and Akercocke with more “progressive-minded” bands like Ved Buens Ende and Gorguts. It never sounds too much like any particular band, and establishes an original soundscape. Technicality seems to just be a by-product of the artists’ visions. The album is certainly an impressive display of musicianship, but it’s the kind of technicality that doesn’t hit you in the face and threaten to rip your nuts off if you don’t admit that the musicians can probably school you on their respective instruments. It’s more the kind of technicality that you come to appreciate when you hear a really interesting combination of notes, or layering of rhythms, or drum maneuvering, then go back to listen again and say, “fuck that was cool, and fuck that sounds like it took a lot of practice to execute”. Astomatous creates an intricate sense of rage, pain, appreciation of the natural world, and intellectualism. These guys combine an original take on brutal metal with a cold, evil, and grim fury that freezes your soul at the same time that your bloodstream is pumped with adrenaline.

As individual musicians, everyone lays it down no question:

The guitars are executed damn finely. Some of those time signatures make your head spin. For sure, these dudes do not hold off on pinch harmonics. The ways that they incorporate them into the riffs make your heart jump all over the place. The music would not be quite so distinctive without them. Hehe, and the solos are generally awesome.

Weinstein is a true skinsman. He’s incredibly tight, even through his wicked polyrhythms and sweet, unconventional fills. He adds a shitload of destructive force to the album, and rarely allows you to forget that he’s pounding away. In spite of this, however, he has a very acute dynamic sense. Two thumbs up for sure.

McMaster, like Weinstein, is a very present force on the album, and his tone is sweet as hell. The album incorporates a lot of independent bass lines, which always move the music to higher planes. There are many sections that wouldn’t be nearly as awesome without McMaster’s presence (just to name a few parts, a lot of the mid section in “The Ascetic Ponders”, that damn cool noodling under the first tremolo part in “Prostitution”, and of course the sweet beginning of “Sands”).

The production is heavy as fuck. Especially the drums. The drums destroy. The guitars are crunchy, and the bass is both punchy and smooth at the same time. The album is mixed masterfully. Nothing is drowned out. Everything cuts through really nicely.

My only beefs with this album are pretty minor. The end of “The Prophecy Is Forgotten” seems to drag on a bit too long, repeating riffs and phrases that were played multiple times in the beginning and get a little repetitive by the end. Also, while the starting riff in “The Ascetic Ponders” is damn cool, they maybe play it just a few too many times. However, when they come back into at the end it sounds killer. The last issue in my opinion is that with the exception of some of the vox in “Prostitution”, the vocals don’t really vary all that much. Although I generally like the noise that comes from the back of McMaster’s throat, I could use some more deep growling.

Overall, I recommend this release for all who are interested in some very unconventional death metal, for it has delivered much happiness to these ears.

Read below for more in depth opinions of the individual tracks.

To begin with, two snare cracks kick off “The Prophecy Is Forgotten” with undeniable intensity. The harmonic sense displayed on this track lays the groundwork for the style of the rest of the album. This one’s pretty fast and intense, but the coolest part of this track is definitely the mind-fucking, slow-speed-up solo over that awesome riff with the cool pinch harmonic. This is for sure one of those moments where you have to go back and listen and then you’re like, “whoa, those guitars and drums are spot on!”

“Convergence” is simultaneously an intense, rip your head off ditty, and a churning vat of cerebral connections. It makes you bang your head like never before. The drumming is most impressive, especially the way it goes from frenetic and brutal as hell to crushing and doomy at the end. It augments that beautiful solo at the end perfectly. The violin part after this song is probably one of the most interesting sections on the album. The way that the two violin voices play around with each other, and are then unexpectedly joined by the bass guitar, which adopts its own independent voice before foreshadowing the next track, is one of the best uses of classical instruments in metal that I’ve heard.

“The Ascetic Ponders” is a really brutal piece. The opening riff is crushing, and the way that they incorporate the different endings after each repetition makes for very interesting listening. The mid section in this track offers some inspired bass work. And that part where the drums go solo for a few seconds with the really cool back flip fill into the blast beat, then with the splash hits into the solo (which from comparison with Behold … the Arctopus makes me believe that this is Mike Lerner’s bad ass solo) is possibly my favorite moment on the whole album. The final solo is maniacal and insanely cool.

“Prostitution” is one of the most incredible pieces that I’ve ever had the pleasure of spinning. It kicks off with some seriously heavy, groovy, and uniquely atonal riffs, and then flawlessly transitions into black metal tremolo picking that manages to sound emotionally uplifting before the vocals come in to crush your positive emotions (unless you count feelings of serious grimness as positive, as I guess I sort of do…). On top of this, that bass solo is fucking evil as hell, and damn, those screams in the background at the ending tremolo part are so fucking cold. This is a pure 10/10 track.

“Absurd” is fast and aptly named, because those riffs definitely give me the impression of some kind of insane asylum. This song has very cool solos, and I especially dig that part with the fast bass drums.

“Sands” brings us back to a solid mid tempo pace with those groovy as hell rhythms that are generally so apparent on this album that one is almost in danger of taking them for granted. To close, that short section at the end makes for one neck-ripping finisher.

Pinch Harmonic Holocaust - 35%

zeingard, November 14th, 2007

Technicality in the metal scene is a double-edged sword, whenever I read that a particular band plays 'technical death metal' or that the guitarist is super talented and plays uber-technical riffs/solos I get worried. Technicality can be wondrous and orgasmic thing, when done right; see Gorguts, Cacophony, and Lykathea Aflame. Unfortunately most bands are full of pretentious tossers who feel it's their right to include an obscene amount of tempo changes, time signatures and other wanky touches to prove how awesomely talented a guitarist they are. They pen a few different sounding riffs and then glue them together haphazardly with tempo changes and sudden melodic sections to form a generic tech death song, throw in a wankish sweep pick solo and you're done! Astomatous are no exception to the rule, in fact they probably worship the rule and have a picture of said rule in a frame on their bedside dresser. Every night they kiss it while whispering "I love you generic tech death template rule, you're going to make it famous because your average fucktard loves anything that sounds remotely technical and brutal!" and then pass out while wanking to thoughts of rolling around in the money that people will inevitably piss away on their albums and merchandise.

So if you've skipped past my ironically pretentious first paragraph here's the gist; they play technical death metal that barely differs in sound from anything you've listened to before, at times they attempt to rip off "Obscura" and fail miserably, like watching a child jump from a roof wearing a cape. There are an innumerable amount of things wrong with this album, but ultimately it's just so generic and uninteresting. They change between a few set styles of riffery; chugging, tremolo, blasting and melodic. Sometimes they change between these riffs in a set pattern before going into one set for a while or maybe they'll go into slower section or chug a bit, it's all very contrived and insulting to my intelligence. A half-assed attempt at appearing as though you can go from riff to riff in odd times and without warning. Also the amount of pinch harmonics in this album is just ridiculous, not even Zakk Wylde uses this many fucking pinch harmonics. Yes we get it, well fucking done, you can strike the string with your pick and then some of your thumb to set up a standing wave on your string that produces a sound with a high frequency, have the fucking Nobel Prize for excelling in the field of being wanky fucktards. Cut down on the fucking pinch harmonics, in moderation they are useful for embellishing a riff but at the pace you're abusing them it seems their frequency correlates to your inability to write interesting riffs.

There are some mildly interesting moments but I'm pressed to actually recall any of them, the utter generic-ness of this release is just astounding and surpasses what I thought was physically possible. The drumming is pretty talented and the drum solo in the second song is great, well timed and placed too. Unlike most tech death, the bass stands out prominently in a few parts which is probably the most amazing part of the entire album because it's actually engaging unlike everything else on this plodding shitfest. Also for a first album the production is impressive and nothing sounds like shit, the guitar tone seems a bit piss weak but then again when it comes to death metal I like my guitar tone to be Sunlight Studios styled. The guest solos are pretty nice in the third song, but rather disappointing because they had to rely on people outside of their band to make that particular song decent.

Don't waste your time on this release, degenerate tech death wankery whose only progressive features are being long-winded and potentially intelligent lyrics if I could actually understand them. I suppose it's not their fault, the current tech death trend is becoming bloated with these bands but by the same token they're finding some success because people are ultimately retarded and lap this insipid shit right up.